Ohio State to open Big Ten tournament play without Kyle Young
Ohio State won’t be at full availability when it opens Big Ten tournament play Thursday night in Indianapolis.
Kyle Young, a fifth-year forward and one of four team captains, will miss at least the team’s first postseason game as he deals with the aftermath of his third concussion in a little more than a year. His status for the remainder of the tournament, should the Buckeyes advance, is unclear.
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In addition to the concerns about the long-term side effects of Young’s situation, his availability adds to a list of questions about what might lie ahead in this postseason for Ohio State. The Buckeyes closed the regular season losing three of their final four games, a stretch that saw Young suffer his concussion, and brought back shades of the four-game losing streak to close the 2020-21 regular season that all came against top-10 teams.
That team got to Indianapolis, won three games in as many days and fell to Illinois in overtime in the tournament title game. This year’s team brings similar motivation to the postseason, but it does not bring nearly as healthy a roster.
“Last year we struggled in the end (of the regular season) and won three games in three days,” Ohio State coach Chris Holtmann said Wednesday. “Certainly we’d like to be healthier and also playing a little bit better, but I feel confident in this group and what we can be. We’ve done some good things in this particular tournament, but obviously it’s important for us to get healthy.”
Young’s injury is the most prominent, but it’s not the only one affecting the Buckeyes. Sophomore center Zed Key will be a game-time decision, Holtmann said, as he recovers from a right ankle injury suffered at Maryland on Feb. 27 that sidelined him for two games. Key returned in Sunday’s final regular-season game against Michigan and aggravated the injury. Second-year guard Meechie Johnson (ankle) will be available.
So although Ohio State will go four days in between games for the first time since Feb. 15-19, the Buckeyes haven’t been able to field a full team during practices leading into Thursday. It’s put a limit on how much progress the Buckeyes have been able to make, particularly on the defensive end.
“We’re certainly trying to (make progress this week) but we’ve had some guys out of practice, too, so that’s impacted things,” Holtmann said. “We certainly are looking at addressing some things. We did that (Tuesday) and we’ll see how (Wednesday) goes.”
This is the fourth Big Ten tournament for Holtmann, who is 4-3 after losing an opening-round game during his first season. Should Ohio State beat the winner of Wednesday night’s game with No. 14 seed Minnesota and No. 11 seed Penn State, it will earn a Friday night rematch with No. 3 seed Purdue.
It could potentially mean a return for Young, who suffered his second concussion in three weeks last season when the Buckeyes and Boilermakers faced each other in this tournament. If medically cleared for both the short and long term, Young intends to play for Ohio State again and finish his career on his own terms on the court.
At least Thursday night, he won’t be available. It’ll be up to his teammates to seize the moment and shake off a tough stretch of games leading into the tournament by embracing the situation. Following Sunday’s loss to Michigan, E.J. Liddell made a point that this was not the final game of the season and that there was plenty more still to play for.
“The most important thing is how you’re playing at the moment,” Holtmann said. “Sometimes people don’t fully understand, kids are pretty resilient and have the ability to move on win or lose. We know this tournament. Every game will be a challenge.”
An uncertain injury situation further emphasizes that.